In this tactical analysis, we analysed the attacking potential of Bayern Munich’s pivots. They had a significant impact for winning the Champions League, Bundesliga, and another three cups last year. Together, they are worth 140 million Euros. Both are 25 years old and right-footed. They are both seeded in Bayern’s starting XI. Both are a threat to opponents’ defences even though they come from the depth of midfield. Together, they might be the best pivot in the world right now. We will talk about Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka in this analysis.
Kimmich is leading Bayern’s tactics from the position of the number six. He is 176 cm tall and weighs 73 kg. Kimmich joined Bayern Munich as a right full-back in 2015. He should have followed in Philipp Lahm’s footsteps, but he was too strong in passing. So, he became the central midfielder under Guardiola in Munich. Since then, he impressed with his distribution of the ball, his leadership, and his goal threat.
Next to Kimmich, there is Goretzka. The former Schalke man presented himself more and more as a box-to-box midfielder with intelligent run routes. Goretzka is 189 cm tall and weighs 79 kg. He joined Bayern Munich in 2018. Goretzka is even more present in front of the goal. We will focus on these two players in this scout report mainly in terms of attacking potential.
Complementarity between Kimmich and Goretzka
Since Hansi Flick became Bayern’s head coach, the team became almost inexorable. They play in a 4-2-3-1 formation and had an average of 2.73 points per game. Furthermore, they scored an average of 3.27 goals and had 0.88 goals conceded. This season, the Champions League winners started with two victories, one loss, and 13:7 goals in Bundesliga. Kimmich scored once and assisted twice so far while Goretzka scored once, too. Together, they are the most dangerous pivots in Bundesliga and the German national players were involved directly in 34% of Bayern Munich’s scores. But why are they so effective in Bayern’s attack?
Firstly, let us have a look at their heat maps to spot their positions on the field. The more intense the tinge is, the more the player acted in that area. The analysis below shows Kimmich’s heat map first.
Joshua Kimmich is on the move around the halfway line. He connects the defence with the attack. Moreover, he exploits the complete width of the pitch. Kimmich plays a bit more down to the right due to his background as a right full-back. It is notable that Kimmich positions himself in the central circle when Bayern is in the build-up phase. Kimmich’s position in the right half-space attracts the most attention. Either he conducts the attack from there, or he uses this space for his run routes to zone 14.
Compared to Kimmich, Goretzka acts more all over the pitch. He plays the role of the number eight between the boxes. Goretzka is great in the air thanks to his height, so he is also very present in the penalty box. Moreover, he also moves in the middle of the opponent’s half. Goretzka exploits the spaces, which are opened by Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller, Serge Gnabry, and Leroy Sané. Then, he is mostly uncovered and this makes him so dangerous.
Kimmich and Goretzka are passing machines: Kimmich plays in average 74.41 passes per game with an accuracy of 88.57% – this is the best value in Bundesliga. His teammate Goretzka passes in average 51.72 times per game. He has an even better passing accuracy of 89.72%. They can combine and complement each other in Bayern’s offensive tactics and this is also reflected in their shooting maps. The first shooting map below shows Kimmich’s positions of shooting.
As you can see, Kimmich is very effective in scoring from outside the box. As mentioned before, he often runs from the half-spaces into zone 14. His shooting technique increases his attacking potential. He was expected to score 1.1 goals from outside the box, but he scored five times from there. Kimmich also scored two goals from inside the box. Most of his shots were also on goal (51.2%). Sometimes he is also entering the penalty box, but this is more the duty of Goretzka as you can see below.
Goretzka scored ten goals from inside the box and only two from outside the box. Almost every second ball which Goretzka shoots from inside of the box on target becomes a goal. Goretzka finishes almost twice as much as Kimmich (80 vs 43 shots). He shoots so often because he enters the box regularly, while Kimmich builds up around the penalty box but we can still say that both players look for finishers. Goretzka is found more around the penalty spot, while Kimmich is responsible from zone 14.
Entering the penalty box
The tactical analysis below shows a typical situation of how Kimmich and Goretzka share the work. Bayern Munich played against Sevilla in the Supercup final. The ball was on the right wing.
You can see how Kimmich backed his teammates as he shifted to the right wing, too. Kimmich overloaded this side to offer a passing option for Thomas Müller.
Lewandowski went deep and got the attention of three defenders. Sané went away from the centre to tie a central midfielder. Müller did the same thing as he moved away from his central position. The yellow lines demonstrate the ties. Goretzka recognised this situation and he ran from deep between the tied midfielders of Sevilla into the penalty box. As every Sevilla player covered a man or had his eyes on the ball, Goretzka was left uncovered. He exploited the space between the last lines of Sevilla as Müller played a cross to Lewandowski.
The ball went close to the six-yard box. Most players would unwind now if they were in the position from Goretzka. But he trotted into the uncovered space around the penalty spot. He ran slowly because he did not want to close the space. If he went too close to Lewandowski, he could have been covered too by the centre-backs. Lewandowski passed the ball into this space and Goretzka scored while being uncovered.
The next tactical analysis displays a different situation, but Bayern acted with the same principle. In the match against Mönchengladbach, Bayern had possession on the left wing. The ball was not in a dangerous zone around the halfway-line as Goretzka pushed up to the striker to gain a numerical advantage at the last line. Again, he moved behind Mönchengladbach’s pivots. Just as he arrived, he got a flat pass, which he let pass through his legs. As a result of this element of surprise, the ball went to Bayern’s right full-back and Goretzka kept moving, which made it difficult to cover him.
Now, Bayern capitalised on the numerical advantage and Mönchengladbach’s pivots were outplayed, as you can see above. Müller offered a passing option at the edge of the box – he did not want to get the ball, but he wanted to tie his opponent. Wriedt did the same thing in the second post with his opponent. Following that, Goretzka was unmarked again in the centre and could score easily.
The scene above shows a play from Kimmich to Goretzka in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona. It shows the intelligence of Kimmich and Goretzka very well. Bayern had possession in the right half-space so Kimmich overloaded the right wing. Barcelona’s centre-back Clément Lenglet left his position in the back-four to attack Müller. Lewandowski recognised this and had a great idea: he also shifted to the right wing and tied Gerard Piqué. This move resulted in a big hole in Barcelona’s last line.
Goretzka stood in the shadow behind Arturo Vidal, as he realised this hole. Afterwards, he sprinted straight into this space and got a chipped ball from Kimmich. These deep runs into the spaces created by Müller or Lewandowski made Goretzka so dangerous. Coming from deep, he is at his maximum tempo and most of the time unnoticed from the opponent’s last line. These two facts make it so difficult to defend against him. This is Goretzka’s big strength in Bayern’s offensive tactics.
Being uncovered in zone 14
Kimmich is more responsible for zone 14 than entering the penalty box with deep runs. Also, he plays precise crosses and has a good shot from distance. He assisted 2.48 shots per 90 minutes which is the second-highest value in Bundesliga. So, the sharing between Goretzka and Kimmich seems logical. Similar to Goretzka’s runs into the box, Kimmich gets also uncovered due to his run routes.
The image above shows the Bundesliga match between Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich. Hoffenheim were leading by two goals so Bayern stood very high. Both full-backs were involved in the attack. The ball was on the left side in a three-on-three situation.
Kimmich played in the right half-space as he realised the opportunity. He ran parallel to the box and not directly to the position where the ball was. Bayern’s number six wanted to stay unobtrusive as he just jogged, he gave the impression to back the attack. Kimmich acted like a defender, so he stood uncovered. But then he stepped in the situation and offered a passing option to Müller in zone 14 – completely unmarked. He got the ball and curled it into the upper right corner with his second touch.
This picture shows the Champions League final between Bayern and PSG. It was the situation in which Bayern scored the winning goal. Goretzka and Kimmich took a significant part in this attack. Bayern played a long ball in the penalty area to Müller.
Their pivot pushed up. Goretzka kept his position in the centre while Kimmich backed the right wing again. Also, Kimmich was located in the half-space. He ran his route again in a curved form to enter zone 14. He did not exude any danger from half-space, so no one of PSG’s midfielders paid intention to him. Kimmich then entered with another perfect timing into zone 14 and could have played the cross.
At the same time, Goretzka anticipated this situation very well. He knew that Kimmich would have taken this route. So he overloaded the centre in front of the goal in the second post, where Lewandowski and Coman were already positioned. As Goretzka also came from deep, he was uncovered too. With his run, he tied up Coman’s direct opponent and this is how Coman could head it in while being unmarked.
You can see in the picture above a situation in the match between Bayern and Schalke. This time Kimmich went into the box and Goretzka kept his position in zone 14. Bayern had four players in the box, which is quite a lot. Kimmich entered the box from his favourite half-space and took the position of Lewandowski as the Pole offered a close passing opportunity. As a consequence of Bayern’s attendance in the box, they tied six opponents in the box. This opened a huge space for Goretzka in zone 14 as he scored in the bottom left corner.
“Counter-pressing is the best playmaker”
This famous sentence arose from Liverpool’s coach Jürgen Klopp. But Hansi Flick also takes this to heart. Let us explain this briefly: if you can force a turnover, your opponent is unorganised and shows holes in their lines. Furthermore, you win the ball mostly in the right angle to the opponent goal. This tactic is very efficient, but it needs the right players for it. Kimmich and Goretzka are intelligent and run to heavy players. So Flick demands this type of tactic, especially from his pivots.
This still demonstrates how efficient Kimmich can be as he presses when Bayern played against Borussia Dortmund. Dortmund’s central midfielder did not recognise Kimmich attacking him. Kimmich read the body position of his opponent – the opponent did not stay in an open angle to the pitch. He controlled the ball poorly and Kimmich clamped down. Kimmich has 6.02 counter-pressing recoveries per game. Afterwards, he played a through ball on Lewandowski. You can see how big the distance in Dortmund’s last line was.
Instead of waiting for Lewandowski to finish the counterattack, Kimmich joined him. He crossed Lewandowski’s route into the space on Lewandowski’s left side. Because of Kimmich, Bayern had a numerical advantage in this scene. The Polish international played a horizontal ball to Kimmich and he scored the winning goal.
This individual class pays off especially against teams that act on an equal footing. So Bayern’s pivot is also dangerous in counter-pressing situations.
The disadvantage of pressing high
Most of the time, Bayern push up very high to nip the opponent attacks in the bud. In these actions, they are merciless. It is deciding how Bayern’s pivots close alleys and spaces. Building on this, Bayern’s wingers can then win the ball back on the sides. Bayern played a world-class attacking-pressing in the last month, which was very run-heavy. Also, Bayern did not rotate a lot on their pivots. Since the summer break was very short for them, as they had won the Champions League, Kimmich and Goretzka seemed to be exhausted as a consequence.
Resulting in this fact, Bayern became exposed to attack. Hoffenheim and Hertha knew how to turn this into good account. The image below shows a counterattack from Hertha against Bayern Munich.
Preceding to this was a finisher from Bayern, which deflected to a Hertha player. This kind of coincidence offered opportunities to Hertha. You can see how Bayern entered the penalty box again with five players. Both Kimmich and Goretzka entered the box, the yellow line connects Kimmich and Goretzka which demonstrates the distance between them. Hertha played it long.
After they played the ball long, Hertha also won the heading duel. Now there were no backing players in Bayern’s last line. Goretzka and Kimmich could not follow Hertha’s quick counterattack. The yellow line shows how far away Kimmich was.
Flick is aware of this danger, but he puts up with it. Bayern’s coach wants his pivot to be included in the attacks. He trusts his goalkeeper to save some 100% opportunities. And right now, his success shows that Flick was right.
All in all, Joshua Kimmich and Goretzka have a huge attacking potential, especially when both players are moving around the edge of the penalty area. Leon Goretzka is more dangerous when he enters the box, while Kimmich could finish well from zone 14. Their biggest strength is to get unmarked thanks to their intelligent run routes.
Furthermore, Bayern are a pressing machine. Their heart for their pressing is their pivots. Goretzka and Kimmich are intelligent and run-heavy players. With these types of players, you have the basis for your pressing tactics. As Bayern push up very high, they offer some spaces for counterattacking. But there are just a few teams who can exploit these spaces. However, these days, Bayern seem to be open to being attacked, as Goretzka and Kimmich are showing some signs of fatigue.